In 2004 I found in a dusty attic, my Grandma Maja’s Sweden to America steamer trunk filled with buried treasures.
Dozens of photos, artifacts, and more. What a happy shock. Maja and I were reunited as I tenderly examined each special piece of her lifetime memories she left behind.
It had been over 30 years since Grandma Maja had left me and went to heaven. Finding that trunk made it possible that Grandma and I had a reunion,- that lasts until today.
I wondered if inside I might find letters written back and forth to “the old country”. I unpacked the treasure chest with wild excitement.
Note: How sad it was that Maja’s trunk was dusty and neglected. I wonder if I had not discovered it if it might have been thrown out as trash. But, it was mine and I was thrilled. I love having it close by me. I feel a spiritual closeness.
In that trunk I found pathways that expose three family secrets which Maja hid from me. Like skeletons in a closet, I expose them in my book.
Inspired by the contents of the trunk, Now 50 years since grandma and I spoke, I decided to write a book to honor her.
In the book, I wrote love letters to her in heaven. We are still very close. Finding the trunk nudged me to stay connected.
One letter addresses Maja’s cherished heirloom clock-barometer weather station. I could write a whole book about it. Imagine Maja packing that clock in the trunk hoping it would make it all the way to some day hang on her wall in her Swedish American home. Note: A cousin safeguards it today
I had seen Maja’s trunk before. Grandma had it stored in her basement. As a young boy, I recall we had talked about it often. It was so special to her. I would have sleepovers and loved hearing grandma open the trunk and relate stories about what she carried away from Sweden. Maja said, “In that trunk I brought many specially selected things from my home in Sweden. She explained how hard it was to adjust being so far from home and loved ones.
Note: I have this treasure displayed in our home-I have seen the house still standing in Sweden.)
Grandma cried. “I packed away things my mother allowed me to bring to America so that I would never forget her.”
Grandma showed me letters and things. They were in Swedish and she looked sad talking about how hard it was to leave her family.
Grandma perked up talking about hundreds of letters sent and received. I always recall seeing the blue and yellow very thin letters on her secretary desk. I can remember her sitting and writing. She would read a letter and put it down and compose a letter sent “back home to the old country.”
Sadly, I did not find any of the letters Maja wrote or find any sent to her. I did find samples of her handwriting that made me cry.
My imagination nudged me to look into letter writing from America to Sweden.
I imagined Maja and her mother corresponding and recall Maja sharing about their very close relationship, mother and daughter.
My book writing and genealogy research focused on letter writing about the times Grandma Maja lived.
I was distressed to find almost no letters written from women like Maja. This apparent oversight was upsetting and ultimately motivated me to continue research and writing.
Because I did not have first person letters,-I recruited two historians to help document accurately. First, Lars Lundstrom, a Swedish history expert. Lars helped with genealogy. Second, Dr Amy DeFalco Lippert wrote a chapter focused on women and the Great Depression.
Some inspiration for writing, My Maja A Grandson’s Tribute, came from making sure that Grandma Maja would no longer be the forgotten Swedish immigrant woman.